Friday, January 10, 2014

Toy Soldiers!

UPDATED 2014.01.19: I uploaded a better effort on the Basic Game for Toy Soldiers! in which I've taken time to correct my syntax and grammar problems.  I also did a better job of structuring the rules.  The Advanced Game rules are still yet untested but have been included as an addendum.

A Simple Start

My nephew left for Minnesota and I gave him a small going-away gift; a simple set of rules and some cheap plastic toy soldiers to go with it.  Of course, this being me I made sure that his gift would be useful and fun.

And it is!

I tweaked the rules just a bit and played against him about 6 times; he won all but once.  He's just 5 years old but loves the game.  Happy me.  Then over the Winter break I visited him and his older cousins and introduced them to the game as well.  They really enjoyed the game and I'm pleased because they are not accustomed to playing board games or tabletop combat simulations.  We played a total of 5 games.  I actually built two sets but I never got a chance to have a 4-player slug-fest.  Basically I introduced two girls, and three boys to the crazy and exciting world of buckets-o-dice warfare and they all really enjoyed themselves.

Total games played; probably 15 within two weeks.  This includes being played twice against my eldest daughter and twice against my eldest child niece.

Upon returning home to the Bay Area I left with this promise to each of my nephews; show me that they are still playing the game the next time I visit and I'll fashion a nicer set of game pieces for them.  They each made the promise but who knows?  I think that I'll go 15mm sci-fi for them if the time comes to deliver the upgrade.

The Game Itself

I added a link to the sideboard under "Downloads".  It is also available here at:

I tried to keep the game as simple as possible while being fun for me.  The rules I posted show Basic and Advanced (front and back pages) sections.  I only got a chance to play the Basic game but I can say that those are well vetted.  For some reason kids really want to make sure that when you lose a battle it is because you fight to the last man standing and so the Basic game rules don't have anything to do with morale tests.

I tried something new with the game design; I wanted fast and easy.  I also wanted the rules to support use of furniture, shoe boxes, and any level playing surface be it a kitchen counter or the top of a sofa.  This feature is a plus for my nephews and nieces.  One of our games took place across about 15 feet of basement floor across doo-hickeys like potted plants, bookshelves, storage boxes, and old chairs.  I suppose that when I bring this game to Damon we'll try to keep the game-play upon a standard 6-foot by 4-foot battlefield.

Each player receives 21 soldiers.  Each soldier comes with two values printed at its base divided by a line; a top value used for when it doesn't move, and a bottom value for when it moves and then shoots.  The top and bottom values may also denote special abilities.  The simplest soldier is the Private which grants a single six-sided die either way.  Kills are on scoring 4 or more for all soldiers.  If the target is behind a corner ("cover") a kill is when scoring a 5 or more.  If both the target and attacker are behind corners, the kill is scored with a 6.  Veterans provide 2 dice if they don't move, and Bazookas auto-kill 2 soldiers if they don't move but can roll 4 dice if they do move.

I wanted to allow reaction fire and so I got that in place.  When a player activates, he may pick a group of adjacent soldiers - up to four - to move.  If they move into the open, the other player may announce "React" and respond with an attack against that group.  The player that reacts picks up to 4 of his own soldiers in a group and attacks the moving group.  Afterwards if there are any survivors they may continue moving and be subject to further reactions but by other groups, or may stop and perform their ability which usually means to shoot.

When the group is done using their ability, it may scoot to a corner within 6-inches and hide but not be subject to any reactions.  This is something I included in the design; normal movement is of undetermined distance being stopped only by the player that moves or by the player that reacts.  It made the game play very quick and the battlefield seem fluid.  In practice - except for that basement-floor game - the groups didn't actually move more than one or two feet (12 to 24-inches.).

Anyhow, the games completed in about 30 minutes apiece. The rules were simple enough all of the kids had them memorized.  I think with just small tweaks this could be a cross-genre set of rules for example ACW or AiQ.  I already have ideas for vehicles and robots and other sundries.

Some Pictures

I don't have anything very clear for the pieces but you can see what I've got in these attached screenshots.  The figures are mounted singles upon these tear-drop Woodsies identifying a national roundel.  I didn't make any rules for faction-abilities but I will probably do that in the future for "Expert" play.  The soldier ability values are underneath the figures.  Each figure is about 2-inches tall because they are the cheap-o kind you can buy for about 50 to a dollar at my local Dollar Tree here:

Junior Generals

Oh, I almost forgot.  I had to invent three rules that I didn't include in the PDF for the Toy Soldiers! game in order to help my nephews - who are very young (about 5, 6, 7) - play. The first rule is the "Box of Death"; any soldiers that are killed are placed into the game-box.  This prevent them from being stepped upon, dropped, or accidentally re-introduced mid-game.  Hee hee.

The second rule was the "Touching Disease".  Two of my nephews would touch a piece, move it about and then change their minds once it was determined there would be reaction fire.  One of my nephews also had this habit of pushing pieces around and out of view.  So the rule is that if a piece is touched it must be used otherwise it is automatically killed and removed from play.  And go into the Box of Death!  Hee hee part deux.

The last rule was my favorite; "Falling to your death!".  A few of our games were using furniture and tall cardboard boxes.  Figures placed upon these were fairly safe unless they were touched.  Invariably they were touched but I wouldn't notice until they began to fall.  At other times the figures would be placed precariously at the edge of a shoebox or shelf and these would fall as well.  So any figure that fell a distance higher than it is tall would die horribly and go into the Box of Death. 

With all of these rules into place, the game flowed much quicker and my aspiring Junior Generals became great commanders.  And that is why I lost several games to each of them.  Well, that and the fact that dice hate me.

Nephew #3 anxious for his turn to move.  Waiting to react.

Nephew #1 deciding to move, Nephew #3 pondering.

Germans on this side of the battlefield looking spare.
The "Box of Death" in brown can be seen here; all
eliminated soldiers are placed inside that.

The Russkies looking bad on their side as well.

German reserve group.  There's a single Leader here.
I decided to make Leaders easier to recognize by
basing them on circular Woodsies.

Random shot.  I think this was another battle.  You can see
here how the units are behind improvised cover.  FYI to
the curious; the language shown is Vietnamese.  Yes, that
is correct; I brought the War home to my nephews. Bad uncle!

A different shot of the blue hill trio from above.
The German "Bazooka" unit just needs to flit to the
corner there and fire off 4 dice of death against all
of those poorly hidden Russkie targets in the open.

The aforementioned Russkie targets in the
aforementioned open.  Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.